Minimalism Germany 1960s

Event  |  Reviews  |  Comments
Vierkantrohre SerieD, 1967 © Courtesy of the artist and Daimler Chrysler Collection: Daimler Contemporary
Raumplastik WeissBlauRot, 1954 © Courtesy of the artist and Daimler Chrysler Collection: Daimler Contemporary
Trophy II/69, 1969 Wood, Artificial Resin, 3 Parts. © Courtesy of the artist and Daimler Chrysler Collection: Daimler Contemporary
Minimalism Germany 1960s

Alte Potsdamer Straße 5
10785 Berlin
March 12th, 2010 - May 30th, 2010

+49 (0)
daily 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.


This exhibition shows important trends in 1960s abstract art in Germany from the
Daimler Art Collection: Constructivism, Zero, Minimal Art, Concept und Seriality.
Starting from predecessors in the 1950s – such as Josef Albers, Norbert Kricke, Herbert
Zangs, Siegfried Cremer – the show looks at developments in abstract art in the cities of
Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Krefeld, Stuttgart, Berlin, Munich the also considers
neighbouring Swiss approaches. We are presenting about 60 works by 25 artists from
the period 1954 to 1974.

Josef Albers, Karl Heinz Adler, Peter Benkert, Siegfried Cremer, Hanne Darboven, Karl Gerstner,
Imi Giese, Mathias Goeritz, Gerhard von Graevenitz, Hajo Hangen, Erwin Heerich, Arthur
Honegger, Norbert Kricke, Thomas Lenk, Heinz Mack, Karl Georg Pfahler, Verena Pfisterer,
Charlotte Posenenske, Christian Roeckenschuss, Peter Roehr, Ulrich Rückriem, Eckhard
Schene, Klaus Staudt, Franz Erhard Walther, Herbert Zangs

One of the key areas of the Daimler Art Collection, founded in 1977, is 20th century abstract
art, from the Stuttgart circle around Adolf Hölzel in 1910 via Bauhaus, Constructivism,
Concrete Art, Minimalism, conceptual tendencies, Neo Geo to the most recent contemporary
art. Groups of works by German artists have been acquired on this basis over the last ten
years, representing pioneering abstract trends in the 1950s and 1960s.
Given the acute discontinuity brought about by restorative art policies in Nazi Germany, a
young generation of artists in post-war Germany had to seek reconnection with the abstract
avant-gardes of the 1910s to the 1930s. At the same time a formal language had to be
developed to reflect what had been achieved artistically on to the current cultural and
political scene, and to look for successive responses to trends in American art as they
emerged. The first major bridges to abstraction were the approaches made in the theoretical
writings of Willi Baumeister (‘Das Unbekannte in der Kunst’, 1947) and Paul Klee (his writings
on formal and creative theory were published in 1956 as ‘Das bildnerische Denken), and also
the reappraisal conducted from the early 1950s onwards of the German Bauhaus tradition.

In the early sixties in Germany, a new kind of Minimalism developed that was initially largely
independent from the developments in America at the time. This German Minimalism was in
many cases stimulated by, but also in conflict with, Concrete Art and the European Zero
avant-garde, which drew attention to itself from 1957 on, starting in Düsseldorf, with
unusually staged exhibitions and spectacular projects for public space. The steles, cubes, and
picture objects produced by the Zero artists, which lay in the space or stood in front of the
wall, represent a significant new step for German art in terms of quality around 1959/60. The
Düsseldorf Kunstakademie played an important role in the transition to a specifically German
Minimalism from 1962 until around 1970. Joseph Beuys took over the chair of monumental
sculpture here in 1961; his sculptural vocabulary of reduced everyday forms—crates, felt and
iron panels, angle iron, display cases, simple shelves, fabric objects, metal cubes—was
interpreted from 1957 in the context of his work with actions, among other things. In the
sixties, it provided many of his students with a basis for examining minimalized sculpture. As
a student of Karl Otto Götz, the young Franz Erhard Walther developed his first proto-
Minimalist objects starting in 1962, followed in 1964/65 by Imi Knoebel, Imi Giese, and
Blinky Palermo, students with Beuys in Düsseldorf. At the same time, Hanne Darboven in
Hamburg, a student of the Zero artist Almir Mavignier, Posenenske in Offenbach (she studied
with Willi Baumeister in Stuttgart 1951/52), and, outside academic contexts, Peter Roehr in
Frankfurt conceived their first attempts at Minimalist works.

In the sixties, the German artist Charlotte Posenenske (1930–1985) produced
groundbreaking sculptures and reliefs: they are in part accessible, arbitrarily reproducible,
freely positionable in space, and made from industrial paints as well as ‘needy’ materials,
such as pressboard, corrugated cardboard, or sheet metal. The work group acquired and
exhibited by the Daimler Art Collection since 2002 was a crucial step to rediscover her
minimalist works of art, before only circles of experts were familiar with the artist. Charlotte
Posenenske began producing abstract paintings in primary colors in the late fifties. She later
bent sheet aluminum or produced ojects made out of square tubing for public spaces and
performances. These extremely reduced threedimensional works, with which her name is
closely associated today, were all created in the brief period between 1966 and 1968. Deeply
impressed and affected by American Minimalism, the artist Konrad Lueg, then under the
name of Konrad Fischer, opened his legendary gallery in 1967 in Düsseldorf. As early as
1967, Posenenske, together with Hanne Darboven, exhibited her work here alongside that by
American protagonists such as Carl Andre and Donald Judd. In 1968, Posenenske completely
ceased all of her sculptural activities “for political reasons,” as it was generally put— but
which was also artistically consistent.

In 1965 Posenenske travelled to New York for the first time and came in contact with
American Minimal Art, her journey came at the beginning of a wave that in the second half of
the sixties took the most important artists working within a specifically European Minimalism
to New York, along with pioneering German art critics, curators, gallery owners, and
collectors. In 1966, Hanne Darboven arrived in New York and developed one of the essential
constants within her oeuvre in her encounter with Minimal Art, above all with the work of Sol
LeWitt. Her serial sequences of numbers and geometrical figures—along with Posenenske’s
sculptures, Franz Erhard Walther’s action-oriented work forms, and sculptures by Eckhard
Schene, Imi Giese, or Ulrich Rückriem—are among the most significant European
contributions to a Minimalism with a Conceptual quality. For the Konstruktion (Construction)
series, developed in New York, Hanne Darboven worked with punctures and perforations on
graph paper, they can be seen as variations on the dot grid in pictures and reliefs of her
teacher at the Hamburg academy, Almir Mavignier, who was part of the Zero group. Darboven
first showed the Konstruktionen at the ‘Normal Art’ exhibition organized by Joseph Kosuth,
beside Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre, Donald Judd, On Kawara LeWitt arranged for Darboven’s
first solo exhibition—together with Charlotte Posenenske—at Konrad Fisher’s newly opened
gallery in Düsseldorf, which was a crucial step in terms of the German response to her work
after she returned from New York.

Franz Erhard Walther lived in New York from 1967 to 1973 and entered into an intense
exchange with American exponents of Minimal Art. Walther gained important early
impressions from encounters with the work of the European Zero artists, above all Piero
Manzoni and Lucio Fontana. It was during this period that Walther discovered the material
process as a work form and developed paper works and picture objects that were
conceptually and formally close to contemporary works by New York Minimal artists.
Walther, who worked between Düsseldorf and Fulda around 1960, started experimenting with
processual structures and temporary production and treatment forms such as folding,
separating, dividing, pasting, packing up, piling, gluing, cutting, and laying out, using materials
that were not considered artistic at the time, such as hardboard, primer, paste, untreated
cotton, packing paper, or felt. Around 1962/63, Walther developed his series of Stapel-
Auslege-Arbeiten (Piling–Laying-Out Works) with two different states: the pile as storage and
at the same time work form, and the various ways in which they can be laid out on the floor,
defined individually by the viewer. The act of laying out the work is considered one of its
components, which means that the temporary element, the period of time it serves as
sculptural material, becomes part of the work.
In two exhibitions in Fulda in 1963, Walther tested the relationship between material, serial
sequences, space, and imaginative ‘use’—these can in fact be regarded as prototypical
pronouncements of a specifically German Minimalism. In the summer of 1963, he presented
a Braune Matrazenform (Brown Mattress Form) and two pillow works, each consisting of
sixteen parts out of colorful pages taken from illustrated magazines, at the Galerie Junge
Kunst. The following December, he exhibited a space-related installation of various sculptural
objects: the works were encircled by a hemp string; there was a yellow cardboard box and a
vertical, five-part row of pillows on the front wall, a pillow made of muslin on a chair, and on
the floor a large air-filled paper pillow.

At around At around the same time, Peter Roehr, then twenty years old, was working on his typographic
and photographic montages in Frankfurt. The latter type of montage involved a fixed base
pattern of quadratic or crosswise rectangular cut-outs from newspaper advertisement photos,
mounted using a simple principle of uniform rows with no gaps. Up until 1965, the artist
continued with sound and film montages, all this with hardly any contact with the Frankfurt
art scene, but enjoying a deep friendship with Charlotte Posenenske. Roehr decided to create
up to five copies of each montage rather than treat them as one-of-a-kind works of art. Roehr
exchanged letters with Jan Dibbets in 1966 on the concept of an “association of mass art
producers.” The Frankfurt gallerist Adam Seide helped Roehr to stage a radical show entitled
‘Ausstellungs-Ausstellung’ (Exhibition-Exhibition)—ten wholly identical works in black paper on
cardboard, 119 by 119 centimeters, the so-called ‘Schwarze Tafeln’ (Black Panels).

The lean group of sculptures created between 1966 and 1968 by Imi Giese bears the greatest
formal resemblance to Posenenske’s work at this time. Giese had also initially allowed himself
to be guided by the material purism of the Zero artists in the early sixties, but then developed
modular, multipartite sculptures from it using basic geometrical forms. These were set up
temporarily, indoors or outdoors, forming variable constellations. In 1966, Erwin Heerich
began work on his plans drawn on lined paper and his cardboard sculptures—groups of works
whose groundwork had been laid in the fifties and involving an austere concept, precise
regularity, and economic serial reproducibility (Heerich, however, refused any association
with Minimalist exhibitions, such as René Block’s Minimal Art exhibition in 1968).
Eckhard Schene and Peter Benkert created their reduced three-dimensional picture objects
and sculptures amid the vigorous figurative painting scene of sixties Berlin. Between 1968
and 1971, Schene created a group of sculptures, mostly varnished black, dealing with illusory
spatial penetrations and perspectives. Benkert exhibited his Minimal Luschen (Minimal
Wimps), which leaned against the wall, with the Berlin Grossgörschen group. In the summer
of 1968, René Block included art from the German scene in two Minimal Art exhibitions in his
Berlin gallery, featuring Giese, Palermo, Posenenske, et al. besides Donald Judd and Sol

As for other active forces at work in this context, which are not represented in our actual
exhibition—Eva Hesse spent 1964 working in Cologne after finishing her studies in the United
States, creating her first picture object in the summer she spent there by threading strings
through the holes in a piece of wire mesh she had found and covering it with plaster. In
1964/65, Blinky Palermo created his first structural paintings, which grew out of an interest
in Constructivism and Suprematism. These were followed in 1967 by a series of uniformformat
picture objects created by laying fabric over stretcher frames and Minimalist wall
objects. In 1966, Reiner Ruthenbek, working in the Düsseldorf context, also began to
minimize his formal vocabulary. He created the Leitern, Löffel und Schirme (Ladder, Spoon,
and Umbrella) groups. It is no coincidence that Franz Erhard Walther organized an exhibition
of this early work in Fulda in 1966. If we regard Walther’s Fulda space of 1963 as the
beginning of a specifically German Minimalism, then the hardboard space Raum 19 by Imi
Knoebel und Imi Giese marked a preliminary high point in 1969: this consisted of “plasticconstructive
basic forms such as cubes, rectangular plates, and arch segments stacked on
the floor and around the walls, turning the space that surrounds them into a structure for
viewers to enter.

The Daimler Art Collection was founded in 1977 and is now considered to be one of the key
European corporate collections, enjoying international acclaim. The collection comprises
about 1800 works by over 600 artists. It focuses on abstract art in the 20th century, from the
Stuttgart circle around Adolf Hölzel in 1910 via the Bauhaus, Constructivism, Concrete Art,
Minimal Art, conceptual movements and Neo Geo to the most recent contemporary art.
Further large areas of the collection are devoted to the themes of the car in art and to
international photography and video art, and then comes the complex of large public
sculptures in Stuttgart and Berlin. Exhibitions on company premises, at Daimler
Contemporary in Potsdamer Platz, Berlin and in international museums, and also prizes
promoting young art make it possible to address the collection on a broad basis.

After Daimler Art Collection exhibitions in distinguished museums all over the world – New
York, Karlsruhe, Detroit, Johannesburg, Tokyo, Singapore, São Paulo – main parts of the
Collection are presented in Vienna in spring 2010. The Museum Albertina exhibits until end of
April ›CARS. Andy Warhol, Robert Longo, Sylvie Fleury, Vincent Szarek. Commissioned works
fort he Daimler Art Collection from 1986 bis 2005‹. The Museum Moderner Kunst (Mumok) in
Vienna presents from March 25 to June 27, 2010 a second major selection from the Daimler
Art Collection, titled ‘Pictures about Pictures. Discourses in Paintings with works from Josef
Albers to Heimo Zobernig.

Dr. Renate Wiehager,
Leiterin Daimler Kunst Sammlung